Life Lessons From a Church Sign

I have always been partial to the “wisdom” of church signs. Sometimes, what they say can be so profound (a church about a half mile away from me quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi, to name a few). Sometimes, they leave me scratching my head (I remember one particular sign near Keyser, WV that related love for Jesus with a crack addition…I am NOT kidding). But I have always had a soft spot for the knowledge and the wisdom that a church or congregation chooses to send out to the world. Think about it–those are words that you are putting out there for public consumption as a representation of your beliefs and faith. It’s what strangers, “non-believers,” and passers by know about your church without them ever walking through your doors. Oddly enough, this signage has a more important job than I think we give it credit for.

My husband, son, and I made a short road trip to Bedford, Pa. today in order to do a little shopping at a Mennonite bulk foods store. The drive there is a gorgeous one–miles upon miles of farmland, aging red barns, sloping and heavily wooded mountain ridges, golden fields. It is breathtaking. On the way, there is a church that sits by itself at the bottom of one of these forested valleys. As we drove by, my husband and I both found our attention drawn to the sign in the front of the church. It read in simple black letters: “Small deeds are better than great intentions.”

Now, I personally believe in God, but since I can’t prove His existence to anyone, you can feel free to substitute fate, destiny, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, what have you, but at that moment, I felt as though I was meant to see that message and to heed its counsel.

The last few weeks…the last year, honestly…has been such a struggle for our family. Our car was hit (while parked) by a semi, which caused $6000 worth of damage. Our four year old Subaru’s engine blew, while we were still making payments on it, and Subaru refused to fix it, using every excuse in the book to void the warranty (an independent mechanic said it was clearly a defect from manufacturing). Our daughter was hospitalized for a short time with pneumonia. We’ve had multiple ER and doctor’s visits. We’ve lost several loved ones. And our financial situation tanked.

Sometimes, in an effort to start fresh, to recover, to make changes and accomplish goals, to rehabilitate our financial lives, to make our home a better one for my family, I feel this need to do everything all at once. I find myself wanting to do ALLTHETHINGS. I have to keep the house clean, to never spend any money on wants–ever, to always be patient with my children, to always do things from scratch or homemade, to learn and do all of the skills needed to become self reliant NOW. My to do list for a day, and I am NOT kidding, often has an average of 40 items on it.

I bet you can guess what happens, right?

I crash and burn.

In an effort to do it ALL, I end up overwhelmed and discouraged, or I consider myself or my day or my efforts a FAILURE. It doesn’t matter to me that I tried, or that something was accomplished. I didn’t do it ALL. I made a MISTAKE. And I end up backtracking, losing all progress.

That simple message on that country church sign was a much needed reminder for me to take a step back and to be happy with effort, progress, in its smallest, simplest form. Because if I try to do it all, and I have the best of intentions, I won’t be able to do everything and be everything for everyone. Yet, if I prioritize my goals and accept my limitations, progress WILL get made through small goals and actions, and my efforts won’t be hindered by thoughts of failure and to do lists that are a mile long. I can’t do it all, but I can do SOMETHING.

(A blurry, cameraphone shot of the sunset on said drive tonight.)

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